Grainy, flickering images of muddied and bloodied soldiers amid bomb-shattered landscapes have always served to remind those of us who will never know such horrors, just how terrible the First World War was in the trenches of France and Belgium.
But the old footage of a century ago can never show the full extent of the suffering, the fear, the inhumanity of it all.
Sebastian Faulks' novel Birdsong, meticulously researched and masterfully written, shed new light on those dreadful years, weaving a love story into the carnage and destruction.
Adapted for the stage by Rachel Wagstaff, who incredibly was still at school when the book was first published more than a decade ago, it had a critically-acclaimed run in the West End last year, before another version was made into a series for the BBC.
Now a new touring version is on the road, thanks to the Original Theatre Company, and arrived this week at The Theatre Royal in Windsor where, for the first night on Monday, a capacity audience sat transfixed and reverential, some visibly moved by the memorable acting and remarkably-realistic set. The action on stage is probablyt the closest we can get to experiencing the horror of the trenches and, in the case of Birdsong, the heightened dangers faced by the sappers who dug deep and claustrophobic tunnels towards the enemy lines.
Jonathan Smith plays Lt Stephen Wraysford, whose pre-war love affair with the wife of a French factory owner, is at the heart of the story. Despite only graduating from drama school three years ago, Jonathan gives a wonderfully assured and confident performance as the troubled British officer.
The 'flashback' sequences where he is required to switch instantly from writhing badly-injured in a hospital bed to chatting politely in a French drawing room as he gazes admiringly on his host's wife, are accomplished with ease and perfect timing. The object of his affections is Isabelle Azaire, in the shape of former Hollyoaks actress Sarah Jayne Dunn, whose poise and stage presence show just how far she has come since joining the Channel 4 soap as a 14-year-old in 1996.
The development of the couple's love affair, culminating in a near-balletic bedroom sequence, and the gentle picnics with the family on the banks of the River Somme, give the scenes at the Front - interchanged seamlessly and respectfully, even greater poignancy. Here the band of long-suffering squaddies, led by Tim Treloar, who gives a stunningly-good performance as Jack Firebrace, face the everyday perils of war with fortitude and dollops of humour.
There is even a place for music, with some emotion-tinged arrangements of traditional songs and hymns by one of the cast, Tim Van Eyken, who happens to be one of Britain's top young folk musicians. Joshua Higgott, in the role of Brennan, is in particularly fine voice, these unaccompanied renditions giving added pathos to the drama.
Every member of the cast gives a faultless performance, many playing two different and very-contrasting roles, with director Alastair Whatley ensuring that the action moves on apace while never conflicting with the intensity of the book. And all the while, of course, there is the birdsong, a reminder that nature survives despite the destruction and death all around.
As we prepare to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War next year, this remarkable play sets the perfect tone for remembrance and respect.
Birdsong is at The Theatre Royal, Windsor, until Saturday July 20. Contact the box office on 01753 853888 or www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk